Pennsylvania Introduces House Bill 1769 to Seal Eviction Records
November 22, 2023
Pennsylvania state legislators have introduced House Bill 1769 to address eviction records used in tenant screening. It would automatically seal no-fault eviction records, eliminating potential housing discrimination that could prevent residents from acquiring housing.
House Bill 1769 would seal most eviction records. However, it has carved out several exceptions. One of the limited exceptions concerns eviction cases that resulted in the court favoring a landlord. Cases like this must wait four years before becoming eligible for sealing. This legislation would also allow landlords and tenants to maintain access to these eviction records. A court could also decide to unseal these records, releasing the information to the public.
Current regulations have eviction records publicly accessible. Furthermore, state law maintains that these records will remain publicly available indefinitely. The law also includes cases where the tenant prevailed and ones withdrawn by the landlord. Legislators clarified that this holds true for cases concerning inaccurate or incomplete records.
As a result, advocates have claimed that landlords may screen out tenants during the application process. This practice could force tenants to accept lower-quality housing. Many have commented that such accommodation is from landlords who typically approve applicants with prior evictions. Furthermore, legislators argue that this immediate screening becomes more prominent with landlords automating their process.
A Sponsor’s Word
According to House Bill 1769’s primary sponsor, State Representative Smith-Wade-El, “We all deserve a safe, warm place to call home, but for millions of renters across the commonwealth, one mistake or emergency can lead to an eviction. After evictions, households can struggle for months to find housing, which can break up families, risk employment, and lead to homelessness. This legislation would help give Pennsylvania’s renters a fair chance at finding housing by establishing procedures for limited access to eviction records. This legislation is a commonsense step that would make it easier for working-class Pennsylvanians to access housing.”
Legislators have compared House Bill 1769 to the state’s existing Clean Slate Law, the first legislation in the country to seal many criminal cases automatically. Automatically sealing misdemeanors and nonviolent summaries intended to help many overcome obstacles caused by these records. According to legislators, it eliminates the often costly and challenging court petition process.
The future of House Bill 1769 remains uncertain as it proceeds through the legislative process. Regardless, employers in Pennsylvania must comply with the current regulations. One way to ensure compliance is by working with a trusted background-checking company. The right partner will keep your company up-to-date with the latest local, state, and federal screening regulations.
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